Slapshot.


The part of this whole training process for the upcoming race schedule that I absolutely loathe is the nutrition aspect.  I need to eat better.  I need to form better habits.  Since the beginning of the year I have up’d by protein intake and decreased the carbs.  I have increased the number of ounces of water I take in daily.  I now pop a multi-vitamin daily (and yes, some days they are Fred, some days they are Wilma, and others are that really cool car with boulders as wheels – that car was badass).  I have drastically cut down / shut off soda intake (after a complete relapse while in Florida and Anaheim).  I’ve cut down drastically the amount of sweets I consume (that sucks too – Mallomars rock).  I log all of my food in http://www.myfitnesspal.com, so I can track my calories and figure out what meals result in the best performance.  I am shocked at how seriously I am taking this.

HOWEVER……

As seriously as I am taking this, I have my moments of “falling off the wagon”.

Here’s the difference between pre-2016 me and the current version (Joe 2.0): I feel guilty when the wheels come off and I give in to a temptation – like I did this morning, by having a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast instead of a sausage, egg & cheese on an English muffin from Starbucks.  Prior to this year, I did not have the focus that it took to stick to a nutritional discipline.  Version 2.0, however, feels that specific emotion necessary for me to improve over the long haul.  That emotion…..is shame.

I feel shame.

…and that made me think of one of my favorite movies of all time: Slapshot.  Quite simply the greatest hockey film ever made.  And since it’s a movie about hockey – that makes it one of the greatest movies of all time, right up there with Ben Hur and that other one with Scarlette, where her big ol’ mansion is on fire….

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The opening scene of Slapshot is a TV interview with with the goalie for the Charlestown Chiefs.  It is hysterical, and it’s why the movie came immediately to mind.

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The goalie, in a very French-Canadian accent, explains all of the penalties in the great sport of hockey.  Hooking.  Spearing.  High Sticking.  Slashing.  When the announcer asks what happens when a player is caught doing something wrong, he eloquently states that “…when you do dat, you go to da box and you sit dere….two minutes…and…you feel shame…and den you get freed….”

I know that there will be times where I cave and have something tasty – something that, calorie-wise, is an absolute no-no.  So I came up with my version of “going to da box….for two minutes”: each time I cave, there’s a 25 push-up / 100 leg lift penalty.  Da box is my office – and it has glass walls.  So if I cave at work, not only will I have to do the exercises, but co-workers could see me.  And….I will feel shame…..

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THAT Guy.


As some of you may or may not know, I’m a bit of a Disney geek.  When my daughter was very little, we began watching those fantastic animated movies together.  We’d sing the songs in the car as we traveled.  She dressed up as a princess for Halloween.  She loved the stories and how they were told – and I loved the incredible creativity behind bringing stories to life the way only Disney can.  I’m also a history buff – so I began reading about how the company was formed, Imagineering, and Pixar.  When my daughter turned four years old, we headed to Disneyland for her first visit…and we were hooked on a whole new level.  Scroll forward a few years, and we became DVC (Disney Vacation Club) members and Annual Passholders.  We make at least one or two trips to Walt Disney World in Orlando a year (one to run the marathon, and another just to simply place reality on hold and enjoy a few days of laughing and fun rides).

Why do I bring this up?  I have a point – just give me a minute to get to it…

Walt Disney World sits on 26 square miles of land, and it contains four theme parks – the most well-known of which is The Magic Kingdom.  The Magic Kingdom is broken up into several sections (referred to as “lands”): Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.  Each of these “lands”have fantastic attractions that hundreds of people choose to wait in line to experience at any given hour that the park is open.  There are also some smaller rides (Disney geeks refer to them as “B, C, or D ticket rides”) that people can experience as park attendance increases during the day.  My personal favorite is The Laugh Floor.  It is an attraction designed with the storyline of the hit movie Monsters, Inc., and it places the audience in a small theater that is supposed to resemble a comedy club.  Monsters from the Monsters Inc. movies then take the stage and try their best to make the audience laugh, as laughter is the fuel that helps power their entire city (called Monstropolis).

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I know, I know – get to the point.  Bear with me – it’s coming….

Now here’s one of the fun things that is done during each performance: a member of the audience is usually selected to simply be called “THAT GUY”.  His or her picture is flashed on the screen from time to time during the short 12 minute show, and the animated comedians make references to him / her as part of their act.  (In comedy circles, this is called a “call back”)  For instance: the monster on the stage, in an effort to make the kids laugh, will tell a joke and then say something like “…well it could be worse, kids – you could be….THAT GUY!” The audience member’s picture is shown again on the screen as the monster makes this reference, and he / she usually the participant makes a funny face – or more frequently a real sour puss.  The kids then laugh pretty hard.  It’s all in good fun.

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OK – thanks for bearing with me – here comes the point I wanted to make….

Now, from what I’ve been told, if you want to be selected as “THAT GUY” during one of these performances, you can supposedly increase your odds by walking into the theater with a rather grumpy face on.  A real sour puss.  Remember: they want to single you out to make the kids laugh – so the sour the puss, the better.  My daughter and I have seen this show so many times that, whenever we see someone that acts like a tool or is really rude, we normally say to each other “…things could be worse – you could be THAT GUY”.  Bottom line: inside the Magic Kingdom, it’s cool to be THAT GUY.  Outside of it…not so much.

So there I was, putting in a 4 miler this morning on the dreadmill, when a dude hops onto the machine right next to mine.  He then proceeds to set his speed and incline, and sets off on his own solo mission.  Fast-forward about 5 minutes, and the dude begins to curse.  “this is NOT A 9 MINUTE F*&king PACE!!!  THIS MACHINE F*&KING SUCKS!”  He then begins to punch the buttons on the front of the dreadmill – because, as we all know, throwing a jab at the speed button of the machine smacks some sense into it and it automatically begins performing EXACTLY the way you expect it to – and continues to curse as his pace begins to speed up…….and speed up some more……

I guess the dude did not realize that his Rocky Balboa moment must have made the “up”button on the dreadmill stick, causing the speed to increase from a 6….to a 7….to an 8….9…10…and well into that pace that the Kenyans call home.  Unfortunately for this guy, he was NOT Meb, or Martin Lel, or Paul Tergat.  Instead, he was just like me – a local schmuck.  His anger also clouded his rational thinking, as he failed to realize the precarious situation, choosing instead to try to hang with the speedy new pace.  He lasted about 15 seconds.  Then…..WHHOOOOOOOOOP!  The dreadmill chucked him backward and he landed squarely on his butt.

I hit the stop button on my machine, and then hit it on his as well.  I hopped off and asked if he was OK.  He responded in the affirmative.  At that moment, an older gentleman came over to find out if he could offer any assistance.  The angry dude looked up, still squarely on the carpet, and declined any help.  The gentleman looked at me and said “I saw the whole thing – wow.  Never a good thing to lose your temper at a machine.”

My response: “Yup.  Don’t be THAT GUY.”

 

 

 

Ouch.


I loved high school.  I played football, I made great friends, and I obtained a first-rate education that, to this day, opens new doors for me.  One of my favorite classes in my four years at Fordham Prep was Italian with Mr. Dolgetta.  He was an absolutely awesome teacher who used creative methods to expose us to Italian heritage – like playing soccer in the courtyard, taking trips to Arthur Avenue, and learning to speak and read the beautiful language through poetry.  I recall having to memorize and recite in Italian portions of Dante’s Inferno, which paints a vivid picture of what Alighieri considers to be the Nine Circles of Hell.  Well….if this wonderful poet lived among us now, I truly believe that he would have chosen, as punishment for treachery and banishment to the ninth circle, for the condemned to sit atop one of those spin bikes used in class at my gym.

Ouch.

I started my day with strength training.  I love going to the gym early in the morning and having the whole deck to myself.  I flew through my routine and switched to core work, before completing a 4 mile tempo run.  I went home with satisfied smile on my face, like the Cheshire Cat.  For me, a good morning workout sets the tone for the whole day – I feel positive, and the day just seems to move quicker.  Then I stepped out of work for an hour during the evening to try – for the first time ever – a spin class.  As I mentioned the other day, adding things like spin classes to my weekly routine should help me complete Ironman.  I arrived ten minutes early, found my bike, and strapped in.

A few minutes later, we began.

A few minutes after that, I was shocked at how much spinning hurt.

A few minutes after THAT, the lactic acid buildup in my legs caused my quads to send the following message to my brain: “…you are a real asshat.  You said this would be good for us.  Well it hurts.  A lot.  And you are really beginning to piss me off.”

A FEW MINUTES AFTER THAT, my brain agreed with my legs, and condemned the instructor to Dante’s Eighth Circle of Hell (normally reserved for runners that cheat during marathons by taking mass transit in order to skip miles and get a time that qualifies them for Boston, this circle sees thousands of souls condemned to run endlessly up the 59th street Bridge…over and over again…after eating a 5 course feast of Mexican delights…with a single port-o-potty as their only oasis and their water stop only offers Ex-Lax).

After 45 minutes, I was a pool of sweat.  I averaged 19.6 miles per hour for the class, covering over 13 miles.  The numbers made me feel like a beast.  But the bike seat made me feel like I had just ridden a horse from Nevada to Idaho without a break.  As a walked down the stairs to the locker room, my calves executed a clever sneak attack by cramping up.  My quads burned.  And my heart rate slowly lowered from its peak of over 175 beats per minute.

When I finally got home last night, I enjoyed a single glass of Cabernet, as a small celebration for following through on my promise to myself to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.

If your local gym offers spin classes, give one a shot!  They are extremely tough, but the cardio workout is really solid!!!

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We’re Off and….Spinning?


OK, so let me be very candid: in the gym, I am very happy being a solo act.  I listen to my music, I zone out, and I go through my routine: get to the gym when it opens at 5am.  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I head up to the lead pile and lift.  Tuesdays and Thursdays I make a mad dash to the pool and grab a lane before the masses decide to converge on it to conduct their daily uncoordinated version of synchronized water ballet.  Most mornings during the week I try to get my run in before hitting the gym at 5 – but after 24+ inches of snow, there is NO WAY I am risking running in Central Park in the dark, with the threat of black ice.  One injury now and BOOM – there go my 2016 goals.  So my evenings are spent on the dreadmill before heading home to a glass of Cabernet and episodes of The Newsroom.  My Saturdays and Sundays are spent doing BRICK workouts (that’s when you start your workout by riding your bike for a set amount of miles, then hop off and run for a few more.  Try it – you’ll see just how much that sucks if you are new to triathlons) and long runs.  I can rattle my routine off in my sleep.  4 sets of this, 10 reps of that.  10 laps of this, 4 miles of that.  Blah, blah, blah.

 

That was my routine.  Until yesterday.

 

Over the weekend,  I developed a new and improved plan to prepare for Ironman.  Why?  Because my basic routine is not nearly good enough to get me where I want to go.  changes needed to be made.  Here’s why:

  • My current routine does not include nearly enough swimming.  Two pool visits a week won’t cut it for Ironman preparation for me, as the event requires all athletes to complete 2.4 miles in less than 2 hours and 20 minutes.  Take one second longer than that, and the grim reaper greets you as you exit the water and tells you that your day is over.  THAT WOULD SUCK.  So, I need more pool time and some expert instruction.  (One thing I have to recommend to all of you: always be open to new wisdom.)  So, that’s where my new triathlon team comes in.  The team I just joined has a weekly swim class at my gym (go figure my good luck!) on Sunday evenings.  While swimming is probably one of my strengths (that’s what growing up on City Island will do for you – if you can swim like a fish in Long Island Sound, you can swim anywhere), I won’t be as fast or as technically clean as my teammates.  Sure I’ll be embarrassed during the first class – but I’m not going to show off – I’m going to gain some wisdom.  In addition to the weekly team workout, my gym offers a weekly swim class as well, where I can learn to make my stroke more efficient.   So my total pool time will be increased to 4 times a week.  Oh yeah – in your face, Michael Phelps!  LOL
  • My current routine does not include NEARLY enough biking.  Why? Because I’d rather do other things at the gym, and I suck at it.  I have absolutely no other reason to offer up.  This is NOT a good thing, and I know it.  The cycling portion of the Ironman requires athletes to cover 112 miles, with a cutoff time of 5:30pm.  If you cruise in to the transition area on your bike one second late, you’ll be greeted by that grim reaper again.  “I’m sorry, but your day is over”.  NO THANK YOU.  So – let’s say that the swim portion of the event takes me two hours and ten minutes to complete…that means I have approximately 8 hours to cover the 112 miles on the bike.  That means I need to maintain an average speed of 14 miles per hour for that entire time frame.  And that pace leaves very little flexibility for the FUBAR moments associated with flat tires, slipped chains, etc.  So – I’ll need to prepare for a 15mph pace for 112 miles.  Period.  Can I do that now?  OH HELL NO.  So I need to go searching for wisdom again.  Enter: the Equinox Spin class.  I’m going to participate in spin classes 5 times a week.  I’m betting on the fact that peer pressure will make me step up my effort on the bike, and the pace will definitely be quicker than the 15mph I’ll need.  Then all I’ll need to do is work on my endurance on Saturdays, during my BRICK workouts.
  • The way I’m planning my weeks, I have myself spending time on things I am not so good at.  I’ll keep my strength workouts in place, and I’ll get my weekly runs in without changing much.  I’ll add one triathlon team run workout a week, just so I can measure myself versus my teammates and see where I stand.  Plus, I want to get to know the team members.  The way I am figuring it, I just need to my get my running shoes on by 5:30pm in order to become an Ironman.  That will give me 6 and a half hours to complete the marathon.  I need to budget in the extreme level of fatigue I’ll be suffering at this point in the long day – but running is my strength as far as endurance is concerned.  I know I can gut the run portion out – I just need to get to that point.
  • Lastly – all of this cardio and lifting during the week will be great for endurance – but my flexibility will suck even more than it currently does.  If I wanted to touch my toes right now, someone would need to hack off my foot and hand it to me.  When I try to touch my toes, I just simply wave at them from the distance.  So – I’m going in search of wisdom again by participating in a weekly yoga class on Sunday mornings.  Oh yeah – I’m bringing the zen.  Boom.  It should be funny to watch the instructor’s face as he tells us to do some yoga pose and I collapse like a flan in a cupboard.

 

So I’ve set up a rigorous weekly routine for myself.  It will be challenging, and there will be days where life requires certain scheduled workouts to be altered.  But at least now I feel like I’m giving myself the best chance I can at nailing Ironman on July 30th.

 

Give some thought to your weekly routine.  Don’t be afraid to go searching for wisdom.  Don’t be afraid of joining a group where you might be one of the slower / weaker / whatever members – if you surround yourself with faster and stronger athletes, you’ll find yourself pushing hard to keep up, and that will make you better in the long run (and if you pick the right team, they’ll support your efforts and be some of your biggest cheerleaders).  And lastly….have fun!  Because if you don’t enjoy the journey, the destination will lose its luster.

 

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Sometimes It Feels Good To Grind…


So 2016 began with a few fun long weekends in Florida and Anaheim, where my friends and I completed something referred to as the “Coast to Coast Challenge”.  This consists of runners completing a half marathon in Walt Disney World and then another half marathon in Disneyland.  So the first weekend in January, we flew to Orlando and ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.  It’s a well-organized and very unique event, and the atmosphere is completely non-judgmental, making it a perfect first half or full marathon destination for rookies.  The half marathon takes runners through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and provides solid entertainment throughout the course.  The following weekend found us in Anaheim, California, running the Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland.  The first 5-6 miles of the course sent the athletes through Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure…and the remaining 7-8 miles of the course wound its way through the streets of the city.  The level of entertainment was not as strong throughout the course at is was in Walt Disney World; however, Disneyland is much smaller and requires the use of public roads to host part of the event – so some leeway needs to be given, in my humble opinion.  That being said – the highlight of the course was the 501st Legion’s station close to mile 9 – storm troopers, Boba Fetts, Han Solos in abundance.  Even the cars were designed as X-Wing fighters, including R2-D2’s.  THAT was cool.

 

Once the bling was earned and awarded, we parted ways and I headed home.  It was an excellent kickoff to my athletic year…but the result of the back-to-back events along with the travel involved resulted in something that I call the The Runner’s Blah.

 

The Runner’s Blah is that feeling you get after the event(s) that you trained for are in the books.  Other people have other terms for this sensation – this one is mine.  I felt the blah as soon as I sat down in the plane to LaGuardia…and it stayed with me for days.  I was supposed to run a half marathon in Central Park yesterday (The Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon), but 24 inches of snow caused the New York Road Runners to cancel the event for safety’s sake.  As a result, I spent the long weekend planning how to wake myself up, shake off the blah and get back to work.  Here’s how I did it:

 

  1. I got on the computer and began to plan out my training for the coming weeks, using http://www.trainingpeaks.com.  This site allows users to link their activities saved on their GPS watches to planned exercises, estimate calorie burns, and budget your time to get the work in.  20131113-110750.jpg
  2. Then I went on to http://www.myfitnesspal.com and began logging my food intake.  This part sucks, because the only way it works is if you are honest with yourself and log every single thing you take in.  The good thing is that Training Peaks and My Fitness Pal talk to each other – so calorie intake is summarized on your workouts, breaking out carbohydrates, fats, and protein as percentages of your overall fuel intake for the day.  This allows you, the athlete, to weigh ans measure your performance versus the types of food you eat.  By using Training Peaks as your daily workout log, you can write down notes on your performance – which will help the analysis and assist you with improvement.
  3. After I got the tech side of things squared away, I knew that I needed several carrots to hang in front of me, so that I would not lose focus.  So I signed up for a bunch of smaller races here in New York City, added them to my Training Peaks account, and set time goals for each race.  Now I have specific speed targets to aim for as the year progresses.  The biggest carrots for me for 201 are Ironman on July 30th, the Chicago Marathon on October 9th, the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th, the TCS New York City Marathon on November 6th and the NYRR 60k on November 19th.  The strategy here is to maximize the importance of daily training early in the year so that I can perform well in the fall without much of a dip in energy level between races.
  4. After covering these three steps, it was on to step #4: longer-term goals.  I needed to prioritize what I wanted to achieve in the coming years.  So I created my Pie-In-The-Sky list.  On this list I added KONA (that’s my unicorn), qualifying for the Boston Marathon, Marathon des Sables, and competing in the Western States.  Hard short-term goals make me prioritize training in the here and now (helping me get rid of the BLAH), and harder longer-term goals make me keep my foot on the gas.  The combination should make me feel that daily sense of urgency to get to the gym when it opens up in the morning.
  5. Knowing how weak I am from the neck up, my next step was locating a group to share my dread with.  People who were as focused on beating themselves up in order to prepare for challenge athletic events.  I chose to join a triathlon team – The Terrier Tris.  They are well – organized and seem like a dedicated bunch of like-minded alphas.  I cannot achieve goals that I have had in the back of my mind for years while purely running a solo mission.  Instead, I need help staying the course.  By joining a team, I’ll train with people that are stronger than I am – and that will push me to get better.
  6. So steps one through five addressed the physical requirements for the goals I have set for myself.  But like I just mentioned, I am not the brightest bulb on Broadway.  So, I needed to set up a plan to keep my head dialed in daily.  I went on to Youtube and created a playlist / watchlist / whateverthehellelseit’scalled, and I added a bunch of motivational videos.  Speeches by famous coaches.  Speeches by Les Brown.  Eric Thomas. Lou Holtz.  Lombardi.  Valvano (Jimmy V rules – just needed to say that).  I’ll need them ready to go when the fire gets a little dim.  And it will.  Guaranteed.
  7. Last but not least, I needed to address logistics.  Every evening, before I hit the sack, I’ll review my plan for the morning.  Go through it a bit.  Try to picture how I want the workout to go.  Positive visualization should help me get up each morning looking forward to the grind.  I’ll also leave my workout clothes on the floor right next to my bed.

 

Motivation is quite important to me.  Wrapping this up, I’ll share with you one of my favorite pieces, written by Tecumseh.  Tecumseh was the leader of the Shawnee, who fought against the occupation of native american lands during the War of 1812.  HE was killed in battle in 1813 – but he is remembered for basically being a hard-nosed combatant and incredible role model.  According to numerous accounts, he was an incredible speaker, and could motivate his warriors to perform above what they thought were their limits.  He put pen to paper a number of times – and this is my favorite passage…

 

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